"No matter how well you teach, there is always room for improvement" (Killen, 2003, p.48).
Even the best teacher needs to be open to new ideas and other’s opinions, and even in the best teacher’s classroom there will be unmotivated students, students not participating or not understanding a topic.
We know that not every technique works for every student; one student might be intimidated by group work, another might not be motivated by a promised reward (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010).
Based on the teacher's knowledge, he makes decisions for every situation, every topic and every student. These decisions can be right, but sometimes they won’t be; and it is really important for a teacher to acknowledge that and learn from mistakes. A good way to keep track is, like Gage and Berliner suggest: "Keep records. If something works, use it again; if it doesn't [...], drop it" (Gage & Berliner, 1992, as cited in Marsh, 2008, p. 46).
To learn from these experiences, for example whether something worked or not and why it was so, a teacher needs to reflect. That means to look back on a situation (reflection-on-action), and also to try to look at a situation from "the outside" while it happens (reflection-in-action) (Schön, 1983, 1987, as cited in Killen, 2007). To reflect effectively, every aspect and every possible point of view needs to be considered (Killen, 2007).
Questions to be asked are / could be:
- Were all the set objectives met? If not, why?
- Did every student understand the topic? If not, what can I do to help them?
- Why did XY behave this way today? Is it because of something I said? Or could there be underlying reasons?
- Did I do everything possible to reach my goal / help my students reach theirs?
- Why is this situation escalating? What can I do to get it back to normal?
There are several reasons why teachers should reflect. First, to maximise learning (Dobbins, 1996, as cited in Killen, 2007) and to "complete the learning cycle for each incident in our lives" (Butler, 1996, as cited in Killen, 2007, p. 54). Another reason is that "teaching and the climate within which teaching takes place are different now from what they were" (Dobbins, 1996, as cited in Killen, 2007, p. 54).
Therefore reflection becomes crucially important in the future – 2010 and beyond – as “models of past types of situations can not fully describe situations yet to occur” (Boreham, 1988, as cited in Bright, 1995, p.76). As mentioned in the introduction, times are changing rapidly. Every situation will be unique, as education theories, legal requirements, the economic situation, culture, ethical factors and politics are frequently changing (Bright, 1995). A big factor will also be technology – the sheer mass of new inventions yet to come will change the way students learn, teachers prepare their lessons, and the requirements for future workers.
The technology we already have today provides great tools for being a reflective teacher. Teachers can use programs, tables and graphs to collect, track and interpret data about progress; there are blogs, forums and chats to share thoughts, new ideas and experiences with other teachers all over the world; and finally, in regard to research, texts about virtually anything can be found on the internet (Snowman, 2009).
Bright, B. (1995). What is reflective practice? Curriculum, 16(2), 69-81. Retrieved January 4, 2010, from Curtin University of Technology Library E-Reserve.
Killen, R. (2007). Effective teaching strategies: lessons from research and practice (4th ed.). Tuggerah, Australia: Social Science Press
Marsh, C. (2008). Becoming a teacher (4th Ed.). Tuggerah, Australia: Social Science Press
Snowman, J. (2009). Psychology applied to teaching. Milton QLD: John Wiley